Hello all! I've got a little time, so I'm starting what I'd like to call "Saike on the rewind" on the Weekly Shounen Sunday Blog!
So what the heck is Saike on the rewind? In short it's revisiting Saike from the beginning since when I started the blogs (and livetweeted TLs) I was already far into the series. I love Fukuchi Tsubasa's manga and Saike in particular, so I felt it'd be wrong to not try and intro Saike from the start! This is going to be an irregular part of the blog, but I will try to catch up to where the WSS began eventually! Also, I'll be using English scans so I can spend more time talking about the chapter rather than having to translate it (again). Yes, these are my translations scanslated for your viewing pleasure. If you have a look on the net you can find the chapters, but I want to avoid linking to things directly here as much as possible, sorry!
All right with that said, lets do this.
So first thing is obviously first....the cover of volume one. Fukuchi's really outdone himself with these as opposed to Ueki, Ueki +, Takkoku and Anagle Mole. He actually details how he conceptualizes and illustrates each cover too! Maybe one day I'll translate those...
My scanslator friend is the one who somehow got the physical volume since for one reason or another, Shogakukan doesn't scan all the extras for the digital ones which is what I normally purchase. Here Saike shows a lot of self awareness by declining the offer of being the protagonist. I honestly would have loved to see a female protagonist in this role, but sadly it wasn't meant to be. Maybe then Mikan would have more focus? (I mean look at her, she's adorable.)
The inner cover and table of contents. Nothing really to comment on here.
Meet Kuzushiro Saike, a rather introverted third year (9th grader) in middle school. It is kind of weird that he's already like this in the story, but we can roll with it for now. I do hope Fukuchi does at some point explain what made him decide to give up, as it'd make his later 180 a lot more believable.
And now a bit of art evolution. Saike on the top is from chapter one, and on the bottom chapter forty four. I'm showing this because I kind of want to illustrate how Fukuchi's art has changed in less than a year. Notice how Saike looks a little taller, and his baby face has become a bit more expressive, despite having the same pose. It's amazing to take in how much he (Fukuchi) has changed with less than a year under his belt!
And Saike from the most recent chapter of the series. Again, it's kind of cool that Fukuchi is evolving and changing as he draws. Yes, yes, I know this is an obvious thing, but I've never seen it happen so fast.
The color page from chapter one. Looks pretty simple and doesn't stand out much for a first chapter cover page that usually has a splash image of the main characters, but I think it's meaning and purpose becomes clear as we read the first chapter.
In short, Saike's the kind of guy who likes to live unnoticed. Again we're not told how he became like this, but he's gotten his routine down pat.
Though because he's given up this early on in life, it's hard for him to convey just what he wants to do later on. The teacher seems like he's being kind of callus to the student, but it really can be hard to figure out what you wanna do with your life at Saike's age. (Probably 15-16?)
The page on the right is very important later for less than obvious reasons, while it's interesting for Fukuchi to refer to Osamu Dazai in a shounen manga. This is a book that someone Saike's age wouldn't be interested in (probably) so it's probably an attempt to keep people out of his "sphere". The call back on the right page where Saike asks "Is a person without a dream no longer human" is poignant as it draws a parallel to Saike's well, psyche as well as the book in question (That I really need to read.)
This is an interesting exchange too. For someone who wants to just exist in their own sphere, Saike goes out of his way to be noticed. He hasn't quite given up on the outside world yet, but for one reason or another would rather keep it at arm's length.
And Saike's childhood friend Mikan Karatachi. The top is chapter one, and the bottom chapter thirty two. She's changed a bit less than Saike over the series run, but like him, her baby face has been lessened a bit, and her eyes lost a bit of that droopiness in her eyes. It's a shame the running gag of the series seems to be that she doesn't get to appear much though. What's interesting about that is Fukuchi himself pokes fun at it which means it's not just occurring cause he's forgotten about her. Hm.
I'm not a
huge pervert I swear! This page is somewhat important later too! I do like how Saike's so blase about the panty slip. Also to Mikan in general, though from her general attitude toward him, it seems she's rather used to him being aloof, which begs the question again..when/how did he become like this?
Saike's still super blase, but it's clear she's his "weak spot" so to speak. Other than to his teacher in which he's forced to speak, she's the only person he's had a real conversation with this whole day/chapter. Mikan also serves as a somewhat foil to him as she has a path of her choosing clearly laid out for her, unlike Saike.
Mikan sees Saike for who he is, and not who he thinks he is. This is why she's invaluable to him, even if he doesn't know it yet.
As an introvert myself, I know what it's like to have friends like this, and I believe they really should be treasured --the ones who find good in you even when you don't believe there's any good in yourself. Mikan doesn't have blind faith in Saike though --at one point he was less passive --and that's all it took for Mikan to believe in him. It's not that Saike could make something of himself, he will in her eyes.
Besides the technical merits of this page (Fukuchi is really great at background/perspective as shown by the first big panel) Mikan is the one person to crack through Saike's sphere and he seems to be responding. It does seem like Mikan --a girl who wears her emotions on her sleeve dragged Saike out here just to pep him up (though the reasons for this are less than obvious) but this is what he needed to hear, and I think Fukuchi did a good job of conveying it without being overly sappy.
And now the central "plot" of the story kicks in, as much as it's unfortunate for poor Mikan. Saike's breakthrough falls apart and...
He's rendered worse than before. The intent expressed by this page is clear even without it's technical merits. We all really do think we're invincible until someone we know is hurt or dies. The resulting retrospective can be helpful in shaping one's life or harmful in the case of Saike who up until now has been wasting his life in a sphere, while someone who had a meaning --dreams was taken away from him.
Retrospective is a double edged sword. The one person who understood Saike's worth (as far as we know) is gone, and now he's been spurred into action...for the wrong reasons. This kind of misunderstanding isn't unique, but how Fukuchi conveys it through Saike's stream of thought --"We don't realize how long we'll be here until someone else isn't" and "I 'm the one who has absolutely nothing". Is what makes it poignant in Saike's case. He honestly thought he had nothing, but didn't realize that he had something in Mikan until she was gone.
As seen in the earlier classroom scene, Saike never actually wanted to be alone. The middle panel in particular illustrates this. Perhaps --and this is just a theory, Saike has gotten used to being reactive to a point where he needs someone to initiate something, be it saving Mikan after she nearly drowned, or a person to start up a conversation with him before he could react.
Finally drowning literally and metaphorically, Saike comes to the truth...he had wasted his barely started life by waiting for something to happen. Although in this case he really couldn't have done anything to save Mikan, the regret that he had been inactive for all this time hits him hard.
He wakes up from what is understandably his worse day ever thinking it's a dream.
Saike for the first time in this chapter --and as long as we've known him, as short as it has been takes action after waking up and immediately calls Mikan, however like most misread epiphanies, once he realizes she's okay, he quickly slips back into a comfortable routine.
Convinced it was a dream, and seemingly learning nothing, Saike is content to return to wasting his days until he recalls this conversation from the the day before.
Remember how I pointed out that earlier page would be important? It's because it was! Saike's slowly realizing that rather than the events of the day before being a dream that he is in fact repeating his entire day over!
Saike tries to rationalize what he's feeling as Deja vu, but he quickly realizes that this is not the same thing. Rather than thinking that he experienced something that he did not, he is actually able to predict with 100% accuracy what is about to happen to him and others.
We see this later as the series progresses, but Saike has a very nimble mind when he remains calm. He's already figured out that he's experiencing a repeat of the day that he's already been through.
Right down to that page I mentioned before!
Stop looking at me like that. Now that he knows the truth of what's going on, what does Saike decide to do now?
His eyes are determined --he now has control over what happens in this day that has rewound itself and put him in a position of power. The Saike of just slightly before who was fine with letting his time and life go to waste has taken the reigns of the opportunity given to him to set things right. Though as I pointed out before this is Saike "re"acting to something which is his strong point. What will he do when he has to be the one to initiate action? That will be something we'll bear witness to throughout the rest of the volume.
So in my personal opinion, chapter one was really strong because it was paced just right, and revealed just enough about the characters and their world to keep us interested. Fukuchi is primarily a battle manga artist, so this first chapter is a new challenge for him. While eventually Saike does head down a road well traveled to him, this foundation is a great start to a slightly different series than his last four. Saike may not be empathetic yet, but his reasoning and motives are very clear to the reader even if they aren't readily to the character himself. I do hope that at some point Fukuchi gives us the reason as to why he became so despondent, but this is only chapter one of volume one. There's time to get to that. With this is the end of Saike on the rewind chapter 1! I hope you'll tune in for chapter two soon!